National Poetry Month: The party's in high gear
Published: April 17, 2007
|High profile organizations like the Academy of American Poets celebrate April with much fanfare. That's to be expected. But what's interesting about National Poetry Month in America comes from communities scattered across the country.|
One of the most creative celebratory tactics occurs in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The James V. Brown Library has scheduled two poetry programs, but they came up with a clever add-on. The library created a display in the lobby, "Take a Poem Out to Lunch." Backing up words with action, the library is donating table tents with short poems to downtown restaurants. That's an amazing way to put poetry up front and center.
California Poet Laureate Al Young is one of the more active state laureates. Young is touring The Golden State, reading in 11 cities this month. He's focusing on rural areas, according to The Eureka Reporter, taking poetry to the people in the purest sense.
There's a special Women in Poetry Reading at the University of Texas at Dallas, where accomplished poets will read and then listen. And open-mic session allows those in the audience to read their own work or the work of their favorite women poets. This is fitting, because American poetry started with a woman, Anne Bradstreet.
One of the longest celebrations will take place in Silverton, Oregon. According to the city's Web site, Silverton's progressive attitude dates to 1894. The timber industry shaped the economy, and it remains a small city, nicknamed "Oregon's Garden City."
Here's what's amazing. The population of Silverton, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, is 7,414. City administration confirmed that figure by phone. Here's the surprise: the seventh annual Silverton Poetry Festival runs April 14-22, with readings, workshops, open mics and a reading by none other than Dorianne Laux. Poet Tess Gallagher will also read. "We're an eclectic Town," the information desk at City Hall says. That's putting it mildly.
Jacksonville, Florida, a city covering the largest mass of land in the contiguous 48 states, doesn't come close to tiny Silverton. Our official book festival doesn't even include poetry. The southeast branch of our public library is hosting a poetry program, "Meet the Poets," on April 16. One of the poets who'll read is Dr. William Slaughter, editor of the online literary site Mudlark. Michael Platzer organized the program, putting a lot of energy and effort into it. "It's vital," he says, "that the community realize poetry is alive and vibrant in Jacksonville."
National Poetry Month is thriving, not just in large cities like Austin, New York and Chicago, but in small towns and mid-sized cities too.
Thoughts and musings pop up on the Web like wildflowers in a field, on blogs and news sites. One of the most eloquent approaches to poetry was penned by a blogger named sassymonkey at the site blogher.org. Of poetry, she wrote, "I'm going to sit in my living room and read poetry out loud. I'm going to let the words roll around in my mouth like a peppermint."
That statement pretty much sums up the heart and soul of poetry and its birthday celebration.
Meanwhile, if a city could win a prize for poetry month, first place would absolutely go to Silverton, Oregon.
How do you publish poetry? Read our May 1 column for unique ideas about publishing poetry, thoughts on traditional vs. self-publication, and how to decide what's best for you.
"Against National Poetry Month as Such," an essay by Charles Bernstein at the University of Chicago Press
Information about National Poetry Month at the Academy of American Poets
Details about poetry month plans at the League of Canadian Poets
--Posted April 17, 2007
Kay B. Day is a poet and freelance correspondent living in Jacksonville, Fla. Her articles and poems appear in The Christian Science Monitor and The Florida Times Union. She is a stringer for UPI. Her collection A Poetry Break won several awards, including top poetry book from the Florida Writers' Association. Web: www.kayday.com.
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